A very important holiday
“Ma quindi, cosa fai per Capodanno?”
From mid-August through December 31, the Italians who hate social pressure are officially at risk of hearing this phrase in every place, at every time.
They don’t know when their time will come, but sooner or later someone will pop up and annoy them with it.
Why are they so afraid of it? Because this question means: “So, what are you doing on New Year’s Eve?”
New Year’s Eve wasn’t such a social event until a few decades ago. It was mostly spent at home with family.
Now, people are starting to plan for it months in advance, to the great resentment of those who would just like to relax.
But despite their annoyance, everyone ends up spending New Year’s Eve with the ones they love and saying the same traditional greetings.
Here are the ones you need to know.
How to wish someone Happy New Year in Italian
First things first, let’s start with the main subject of this post.
The right way to wish someone a happy new year in Italian is “buon anno nuovo”
It is usually screamed at midnight while toasting with a freshly opened bottle of spumante.
It can be shortened to “buon anno“, and you can extend it to everyone by saying “buon anno a tutti“.
3… 2… 1… Buon anno a tutti!
3… 2… 1… Happy new year to everyone!
If you’re wishing someone a happy new year in advance, you can also say “felice anno nuovo” like in:
Buon Natale e felice anno nuovo!
Merry Christmas and happy new year!
If you want to be more formal, you can say: “Le auguro un buon anno nuovo“, which means “I wish you a happy new year“.
And finally, if you’re wondering how to respond to such a greeting, the right words are: “Grazie, e altrettanto!“.
It translates to “Thank you, same to you!”
This is pretty much all you need to know to wish happy new year in Italian. But before you go, there are some other words related to New Year’s Eve that it’s good to know.
And besides, don’t you want to know some more about the Italian New Year traditions?
Here’s a complete guide on “how to spend New Year in Italy 101”.
How do you say New Year’s Eve in Italian?
So, let’s start by learning some names.
New Year’s Eve is traditionally called la Notte di San Silvestro in Italy.
This name is the Italian equivalent of Saint Sylvester’s Day, with a tiny little difference. If you’ve read our post on the Italian word for “nights”, you may have noticed that: Italians actually call it “Saint Sylvester’s Night.
Another name for it used to be Festa di San Silvestro (Saint Sylvester’s Holiday). Little difference, same meaning.
Both names refer to Pope Sylvester I, who died on December 31st in AD 335.
However, most millennials and the youngest generations don’t use any of these two names.
Instead, they call December 31 la Vigilia di Capodanno, which is actually the exact translation of “New Year’s Eve”.
“Wait! Wasn’t New Year’s Eve called just ‘Capodanno‘? You wrote that in the sentence at the beginning of this post!”
Yes, many people shorten its name to Capodanno, but that is only partially correct. Why? Well…
What do they call New Year’s Day in Italy?
In Italy, New Year’s Day is called Capodanno. This word means “beginning of the year“.
It is the official name for January 1st, but now many people associate it with New Year’s Eve and its celebrations as well. After all, isn’t this what they’re all about?
That’s why if somebody asks you what you’re doing on Capodanno, they’re probably referring to New Year’s Eve.
How do Italians celebrate New Year’s Eve?
So, by now you should know all the words you need to wish a happy new year in Italian and to have a normal conversation about the Holidays.
But it would be a shame to leave without knowing something about Italian New Year’s traditions.
They are a little different from the ones followed in the US, and they come with some other words it’s good to know.
Cenone di Capodanno
As I wrote before, la Vigilia di Capodanno wasn’t such a social event in the past.
People used to gather with the rest of the family for the Cenone di Capodanno (transl. “Big New Year’s Dinner“) and wait for midnight while playing tombola (the Italian bingo), saltacavallo, or other lesser-known games.
Then, after the economic boom, many families decided to have their Cenone in restaurants.
Nowadays, most Italian restaurants offer special deals and menus for New Year’s Eve – and by “special“, they often mean “super expensive“.
But despite the price, some people still like to go and enjoy their big New Year’s dinner without having to cook.
The traditional Cenone has a main course of lentils and cotechino (a kind of pork sausage), and there’s a superstition that if you eat a lot of it, you’ll gain more money next year.
Another superstition says that if you wear red underwear, you’ll have a lucky year.
Concerto di Capodanno
Another thing to do on New Year’s Eve in Italy is going to a New Year’s concert (Concerto di Capodanno).
Every year, the La Fenice Theatre in Venice hosts the Venice New Year’s Concert, which is broadcast by RAI (Radiotelevisione Italiana) on television and their streaming platform.
At the same time, Italy’s most famous artists often play live concerts in all the major Italian cities.
Botti di Capodanno
What New Year’s Eve would it be without fireworks? Like the rest of the world, many Italian cities have their own midnight fireworks, which are called botti di Capodanno.
They’re beautiful to see from far, but many people like to make their botti privately and things often get too far.
At midnight, every major city sounds like a battlefield, which creates lots of problems for animals. So, if you have pets you’d better run home to calm them and stay near to them.
People often get injured too during the botti di Capodanno. For these reasons, many cities are starting to ban them.
More recent New Year traditions
In the most recent decades, New Year’s traditions have had some slight changes.
Now, many people prefer to gather with family on January 1st and spend New Year’s Eve with friends.
They either go to a party/concert in the major cities or rent a BnB in the country to have their Cenone together and party with privacy.
The race to get the best places begins very early: people start planning their trips when it’s still Summer. That’s why your friends are likely to as what you’re doing on Capodanno as early as mid-August.
E tu, cosa fai a Capodanno?
So, now you’ve learned everything you need to know about New Year’s Eve in Italy. Let’s make a short recap.
You know how to wish a happy new year in Italian, and you’ve grown your vocabulary with:
- Capodanno – New Year’s Day;
- Vigilia di Capodanno – New Year’s Eve;
- Notte di San Silvestro – Saint Sylvester’s Night, another name for New Year’s Eve;
- Cenone di Capodanno – the Big New Year’s Dinner;
- Tombola – the Italian bingo;
- Saltacavallo – a card game that is often played during the Holidays;
- Concerto di Capodanno – New Year’s Concert;
- Botti di Capodanno – New Year’s Fireworks.
I think that’s enough for today. But if you want to know some more about Italian holidays, check our posts on:
Now I have to make plans for my New Year’s Eve. If the Covid-19 situation will be safe enough, I think I might rent a place near Rome with a couple of friends. And you?
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